Laurene Powell Jobs is Poised to Revolutionize Education Philanthropy

Steve Jobs was criticized for his aversion to public philanthropy, famously ending Apple's corporate giving program. However, there are signs that were he to have lived longer, Jobs would've embraced philanthropy as aggressively as he did his business. In a 1985 interview Jobs explaining his concern about charity, claiming that when "you give somebody some money to do something and most of the time you can really never measure whether you failed or succeeded in your judgment of that person or his ideas or their implementation."

Unfortunately, we never got to see what Jobs would do to better measure philanthropic results. With his passing, Jobs left his wife, Laurene Powell Jobs, a $7 billion dollar trust (read Laurene Powell Jobs' IP profile). That leaves her the richest woman in Silicon Valley, and potentially one of the most influential philanthropists in the world. Laurene Jobs, like her husband, is an intensely private person who rarely agrees to interviews or public appearances. But with an MBA from Stanford, she is no lightweight.

Throughout her career, Powell Jobs has demonstrated an interest in education reform. Powell Jobs founded the Emerson Collective (read Emerson Collective Chair and President, Russlynn H. Ali's IP profile), the name an homage to Ralph Waldo Emerson, to promote educational reform through means-tested results. The organization remains mysterious, although the San Jose Mercury Chronicle described the Emerson Collective as involving "a range of entrepreneurs to advance domestic and international social reform efforts" and making "strategic investments" in "results-driven education reform ventures.”

Beginning in 1997, Powell Jobs co-founded and led a Palo Alto nonprofit called College Track, which aims to help minorities attain education success through extracurricular programs and tutoring. Essentially, College Track's goal is to help underserved kids get in and succeed in college. Its novelty lies in enrolling students before they enter high school and ensuring that they're both taking the right classes and prepared to succeed in them. Similarly, Powell Jobs has been actively involved on the board of Teach for America, an organization known for mining a wealth of data to better calibrate their methodology. Finally, Powell Jobs also sits on the board of the New Schools Venture Fund.

Although there is very little record of her giving, from her choice of nonprofits Powell Jobs seems to share Steve's aversion to traditional philanthropy and preference for innovative organizations. These nonprofits share a few common traits: a concern with quantifiable results, innovative strategies, and progressive causes. Powell Jobs also sits on the board of the New Schools Venture Fund and the Stanford Schools Corporation.

In addition to her work on education reform, Jobs sits on the board of directors for Global Fund for Women, KQED (the Bay Area NPR station), and the New America Foundation.

With her newfound fortune, Laurene Powell Jobs will likely have an outsized influence on educational philanthropy for years to come.